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Minsk Court Upholds Extension Of Belarusian Opposition Figure Kalesnikava's Pretrial Detention


Maryya Kalesnikava (file photo)

A court in Minsk has upheld an extension of the pretrial detention of Belarusian opposition figure Maryya Kalesnikava, who faces national-security charges after she urged people to protest against a disputed presidential election.

"Maryya Kalesnikava's defense appealed the extension of her stay at a detention facility with the Minsk City Court on January 21. The legal arguments were turned down. Maryya will remain at the detention facility until March 8," would-be Belarusian presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka said in a statement on January 22, quoting Kalesnikava's lawyer Lyudmila Kazak.

The appeal came after Kalesnikava's pretrial detention was extended on January 6.

Kalesnikava is a key member of the Coordination Council, a body set up by Belarus's political opposition to facilitate a transfer of power in the country following a presidential election in August 2020 that the opposition says was rigged and the West has refused to accept.

She was arrested in September 2020 and charged with calling for actions aimed at damaging the country's national security via media and the Internet -- namely calling on people to protest against the election results.

Crisis In Belarus

Read our ongoing coverage as Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka ramps up pressure on NGOs and independent media as part of a brutal crackdown against protesters and the opposition following an August 2020 election widely considered fraudulent.

Kalesnikava, who rejects the charge as politically motivated, could be sentenced to up to five years in prison if convicted.

Mass demonstrations have swept across Belarus since the disputed August 9 vote that gave Alyaksandr Lukashenka a sixth consecutive term.

Lukashenka has directed a brutal postelection crackdown in which almost 30,000 people have been detained, and hundreds beaten in detention and on the streets.

The EU and United States refuse to recognize Lukashenka as the country’s legitimate leader and have slapped sanctions on him and other senior Belarusian officials.

The vote was widely dismissed as having been rigged, with the real winner being opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who left the country for Lithuania shortly after the election due to security concerns.

With reporting by Smartpress and Belnovosti
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